At the end of 2017 season Bangkok United had a change of footballing philosophy. During that season where they finished third, playing a galavanting style of attacking football. The club managed to be the league highest scorers with an impressive 97 goals. The next highest scorers that seasons had been Thai League champions Buriram Unitrd with 85 goals. A big contributing factor to this was the goals from attacking duo Dragan Bošković and Mario Gjurovski who netted 50 goals between them.
However quite alarmingly they had by far the worst defence of any of their rivals conceding 57 goals. To put this into prospective Buriram only conceded 22 goals the entire season. Bangkok United managed to concede three or more goals on seven occasions in the league that season. The defensive team of Panupong Wongsa, Putthinan Wannasri, Yohan Tavares, and Mika Chunuonsee could not form an organised cohesive unit with keeper Kittipong Phuthawchueak only managing 6 clean sheets all season.
Long time manager Alexandré Pölking was tasked with shoring up the defense and making a more competitive team for the following seasons. This new strategy began with star strikers Bošković and Gjurovski being allowed to leave on moves to Port Fc and Bangkok Glass respectively. While high profile Brazilian striker Gilberto Macena was also let go after a relatively disappointing season where he only netted 7 goals. Iranian international Mehrdad Pooladi was also released having failed to establish himself in the first team. These outgoing transfers were done with the aim of freeing up vital international player slots as well as budget.
Another factor to take consideration is the lack of Bangkok United fans, especially in comparison to the other title challenging teams. The lack of fans can be attributed to the club continuously relocating to different parts of Bangkok since its inception. The club began as an affiliate of Bangkok University, and was located in Rangsit, a primarily student area. In 2009 the club moved more central to the Din Daeng area to play their games at the Thai-Japanese Stadium. In 2015 the club moved back to Rangsit this time to play their games at the vacant Thammasat Stadium. This constant movement has meant the club have found it difficult to retain a fan base who have deep rooted loyalty to the club.
The importance of having a large loyal fanbase cannot be understated. For one having loyal fans regularly attending home games and purchasing club merchandise helps to secure the financial future of a club rather than simply relying on generosity of owners or sponsors. This ensures a stable foundation for which a club can create a platform for future successes. Though Bangkok United currently have a lucrative sponsorship with True Corporation since 2010 they still lack meaningful fan support with average home attendances being just over 2900 fans for the 2018 season putting the club 13th overall in the league. So far as of the 2019 Thai League season Bangkok United home attendance has dramatically increased to over 7000. This increase of attending fans shows how important team performances can increase fan interest therefore improve the long term health of the club.
Last season Alexandré Pölking signed mixed Danish Filipino goalkeeper Michael Falkesgaard from FC Midtjylland. Though never becoming a regular in Denmark, he was a highly regarded youth prospect having having featured numerous times for the youth teams of the Denmark national football team. Falkesgaard has a more traditional goalkeeper physique standing at 6ft 3. Signing a young goalkeeper with European experience while only using up an ASEAN player slot was a real coup for the club and set a benchmark of things to come. Brazilian Everton Gonçalves Saturnino was signed from Chiangrai United to shore up the defence, while Vander Luiz Silva Souza who also came from Chiangrai, helped fill the creative void of the earlier departures.
At the start of the 2019 season Alexandré Pölking invested further in building his title winning team. Big money was used to bring in Thai Internationals Tristan Do and Peerapat Notchaiya from rivals Muangthong United to further shore up the leaky defence while prolific El Savador striker Nelson Bonilla was brought in from Sukhothai FC. These signings who were all in their mid 20’s were brought in while in their prime showing the transfer strategy of the club. Bangkok United also signed a marque striker in Mike Havenaar, who has a lot of European experience and will hopefully compliment Nelson Bonilla up top.
With a change of transfer strategy for Bangkok United, evident with the club targeting players who are in their prime and have Thai League experience. In addition with the club finally having stability with a permeant home at the Thammasat Stadium allowing them to grow a fanbase. It seems that the stars are finally aligning for Bangkok United to win the league. This is particularly noticeable when traditional powerhouses Buriram United and Muangthong United have had a slow start to the season, it is appears that it is now or never for Bangkok United.
Images From True Bangkok United